On New Year’s Day, the feast of Mary the mother of God, Pope Francis focused his homily on Mary as both the mother of God and mother of the Church.
“Jesus,” he told the congregation, “cannot be understood without his mother,” the one who gave him human flesh, raised him and was near him always, even as he died on the cross and rose from the dead.
“Likewise inseparable are Christ and the Church,” he said. And, just as Mary brought Jesus into the world more than 2,000 years ago, the Church continues to bring him to the world, he said.
Pope Francis repeated what he has said in the past: “It is not possible to love Christ without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but not the Church.”
The Church brings Christ to people, nourishes people with the sacraments and helps them understand what it means to belong to Christ, the Pope said. “Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.”
“Where can we encounter him? We encounter him in the Church, in our hierarchical, holy mother Church,” he said. “It is the Church which says today: ‘Behold the Lamb of God.’ It is the Church which proclaims him. It is in the Church that Jesus continues to accomplish his acts of grace which are the sacraments.”
“Without the Church,” the Pope said, “Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling.”
Then this past week Pope Francis gave a 45-minute news conference aboard the papal plane traveling from Sri Lanka to the Philippines. Responding to a question related to the murders in Paris he said first that religious liberty and liberty of expression are both “fundamental human rights. “After stating forcefully that “One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion, in the name of God. To kill in the name of God is an aberration.” But then he began to outline what he sees as important limits on free expression: “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.” “There is a limit, he said. Every religion has its dignity.”
When asked about climate change he said that he remembered a saying: “God always forgives; we men sometimes forgive; but nature never forgives”, adding, “I believe that man has gone a bit too far. Thank God that today, many, many people are talking about this.”